Econ 101

Penn State Professor Uses Pop Culture to Teach Economics


Dirk Mateer’s new favorite song is Thrift Shop by the duo Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis, not because it’s catchy but because it’s about economics. “I think it’s a great commentary on where we are in 2013 and how thrifty we’ve had to become,” says the senior lecturer of economics at Pennsylvania State University. Mateer sometimes plays the tune, a sarcastic hip-hop number about wearing Goodwill clothes instead of Gucci (PP:FP), as his undergraduate students file into the 700-person lecture hall. While Mateer’s not the first professor to mine pop culture, he’s particularly adept at it. He uses scenes from movies and TV shows to explain basic economic principals. A glimpse at his syllabus …

Cool Hand Luke, Wonderful Life: Getty Images; Seinfeld, The Office: NBC Universal; Dark Knight: Warner Brothers
Suddath is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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